Storing Your Files Inside the Cloud
By ERIC A. TAUB
Published: March 2, 2011
WHEN the hard drive on Melissa Grove??s computer failed, she faced the possibility of losing 7,000 Word documents, 600 spreadsheets, hundreds of PowerPoint presentations and 12 years of federal grant applications.
??My PC clicked and I knew, uh-oh, and the computer was dead,?? she recalled.
You??ve probably had that feeling. And you undoubtedly have heard the exhortation: ??Back up your data or else.?? For Ms. Grove, the executive director of the Legacy Counseling Center, a nonprofit support organization in Dallas for people with H.I.V. and AIDS, the story had a happy ending because she had backed up her data on a remote computer ?ª what is commonly called ??in the cloud.?? With copies of everything, she could restore all her files.
While once a tedious task, backing up computer files is now much easier because the process has become entirely automated with the software that comes with a Windows PC, called Backup and Restore, or a Mac, called Time Machine.
It eases the problem almost everyone has of establishing a new habit. ??How many times has the dentist told you to floss and you don??t??? said Jonathan Huberman, president of Iomega. Mr. Huberman understands the problem firsthand. Even though his company makes external hard drives, his wife, ??a very intelligent businesswoman,?? wasn??t backing up her files. He learned that only when a fierce brush fire forced them to evacuate their San Diego house.
Backing up to an external hard drive doesn??t help when your house burns or a tornado tears off the roof. If your computer is destroyed, your hard drive, stored 10 feet away in a closet, is probably gone too.
Even though a hard drive with a terabyte (or 1,000 gigabytes) of storage can hold thousands of photographs, songs and movies and costs less than $100, storing your files in a distant commercial data center, encrypted and secure, increasingly makes more sense. Cloud backups are appealing for another reason: as computing becomes more mobile ?ª on laptops, tablets and smart-phones ?ª you need to have reliable access to the data anywhere over an Internet connection.
A growing number of companies now offer these cloud-based backup services. Two of the best-known, Carbonite (www.carbonite.com) and Mozy (www.mozy.com), offer similar features with different pricing paths.
Mozy charges $6 a month ($65.89 a year if prepaid) to back up 50 gigabytes of data on one computer, or $10 a month ($109.89 a year if prepaid) for 125 gigabytes on up to three. Carbonite charges $54.95 a year for unlimited storage from one computer. With both services, additional storage is available at discounted rates.
While Carbonite mostly likely will cost less, it comes with one significant drawback: the service does not back up external hard drives, commonly needed by filmmakers and photographers to store files. So the service is of limited use for those people who keep large amounts of data.
Carbonite also throttles back one??s uploading speed when it detects that a large amount of data will be stored, making the initial upload process even longer. But that may be of no consequence to those who store a smaller amount of data.
Carbonite??s advantage is in allowing its users to access their files anywhere. A user can download and view a single file using apps available for the BlackBerry, iPad, and iPhone or Android devices. Files can also be downloaded from any computer, through the company??s Web site.
Mozy users currently can access their files only via computer, but the company announced this week that remote apps for Apple??s iOS and Android devices would be available soon. Mozy does, however, provide next-day delivery of a DVD restore disc for $95 with up to 50 gigabytes of data, or $132.45 for a 125-gigabyte restoration disc.
Backblaze (www.backblaze.com) combines many of the features of Carbonite and Mozy. It offers unlimited backup for $5 a month per computer ($50 a year prepaid), and also backs up attached hard drives. If your computer??s drive crashes, you can either download the data or receive a DVD for $99 or hard drive via overnight mail for $189. Backblaze??s backup application is one of the easiest to use: it just backs up all data files and once completed, backs up new files on a continual basis (backups of deleted files, as with most services, are erased after 30 days).
For those who can??t decide where to back up, CrashPlan
(www.crashplan.com) gives the option of storing one??s files on a local
connected hard drive, CrashPlan??s remote cloud servers or on unused space on a friend??s PC.
For $50 a year for unlimited backup, you can specify which files should be held in one, or all of those three places. CrashPlan will also back up your external hard drives.
Amazon.com is also in the business of renting out its servers to people seeking backups. Rather than buying it directly, services likes Arq (Mac only) and Jungle Disk provide access to the Amazon Web Services servers.
Prices include both a standard monthly fee ($2 a month for Jungle Disk, $29 one-time fee for Arq), and varying fees based on how much data, and how many individual files, are uploaded and downloaded. Uploading and maintaining 50 gigabytes of data on Arq will cost about $5 a month, assuming you only alter about 5 percent of the files in any month. Jungle Disk users can store the first five gigabytes of data at no charge, except for the $2-a-month fee. Storing 50 gigabytes would cost a total of $7.40 a month. Setup procedures for both Amazon back-up services may be too complicated for many. It requires users to sign up for an Amazon Services account and then obtain secret access keys from the Amazon site.
Because broadband speeds in the United States are slow, the initial backup-to-the-cloud process can take days or even weeks. In tests, I was usually able to upload two gigabytes of data a day. To back up my 50-gigabyte hard drive, a typical size these days, would take 25 days before the initial backup was complete. But once uploaded to the servers, files are uploaded only when changed, and that process takes just minutes.
The services operate in the background, and are generally unnoticeable. All companies promote their industrial-strength security: files are digitally encoded and often compressed before uploading. Multiple copies are held at one or more data centers.
Mr. Huberman, the Iomega president, has a solution for those who are still wary of putting their data in the cloud: Iomega??s Personal Cloud. It is available on all of the company??s Home Media hard drives and allows users to back up data from one Home Media drive to another stored in a distant location, like a friend??s or relative??s home, via a broadband connection.
At about $300 for two Personal Cloud-capable drives, with no monthly fees, the service costs could equal those of a typical cloud-based service within about five years.
But you still have to worry whether that hard drive in your friend??s house is also in the path of a tornado or wildfire.
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tedious: µ?µ???Î?µÄ, ?ÁÃÆµÄ
floss: ÑÀÏß; ÓÃÑÀÏßÇå?à??ÑÀ?Ý??
evacuate: ÊèÉ?, ???ö, ÅÅ?Õ
terabyte: 1,000 gigabytes
tablets: A tablet PC is a wireless, portable personal computer with a touch screen interface. The tablet form factor is typically smaller than a notebook computer but larger than a smart phone. smart-phones: A smartphone is a cellular telephone with an integrated computer and other features not originally associated with telephones, such as an operating system, Web browsing and the ability to run software applications.
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tornado: Ðý?ç, Áú?í?ç